Critical success factors of the maintenance function in the South African hotel sector
Neethling, Carel Ludolph
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Research and the literature available abound regarding the general management of hotels, as well as when looking at departments such as marketing, human resources and housekeeping. However, when attempting to obtain the literature or research that relates specifically to the hotel maintenance department, there appears to be a massive lack of this information in the academic world. This seems strange, given that any department within any organisation can only function when the supporting infrastructure is in place and working properly. Even more so when looking at hotels and taking into consideration that the only physical aspect that the guest can experience at the hotel is comprised of the tangible assets of the hotel itself. This indicated an overwhelming lack of appreciation and understanding of the important role that the maintenance function fulfils with the hotel’s organisation, and an ideal research opportunity presented itself to attempt to address this shortfall. The primary goal of the study was therefore to determine the critical success factors of the maintenance function in the South African hotel sector. For this goal to be achieved, four objectives were formulated. The first objective, to do an analysis of the hospitality industry, and of hotels, in particular, was achieved by conducting a literature study. The literature study on the hospitality industry and of hotels, in particular, was explored by understanding hotel management, which was achieved by discussion aspects relating to a hotel (by defining the concept of hotel, identifying the different classifications of hotels, explaining how the grading system of hotels work and which organisational bodies regulate it in South Africa, and the importance of hotel management); discussing the importance of hotel managers as well as characteristics and personal traits of these managers; and investigating the critical success factors that are needed in effectively managing hotels. Modern hotel managers are an essential part of the hotel organisation. For the hotel to remain successful, the focus needs to be on customer experience, staff attitude and aptitude, and the appearance of facilities and the physical aspects of the hotel. Good customer experience especially requires that these aspects be monitored and controlled in fine detail. The second objective, to do an analysis of hotel maintenance, was also accomplished using a literature review. It was necessary to understand what hotel maintenance management entails; what the importance of maintenance management is for hotels; how the maintenance department fits into the organisational structure of the hotel (by outlining the process of designing a maintenance strategy, understanding the costs associated with the maintenance aspects, investigating the challenges faced in order to accomplish effective maintenance management within hotels, and taking into consideration the role that outsourcing plays with the maintenance function); as well as understanding how maintenance within hotels is classified and grouped according to type (be it planned or unplanned maintenance, and how to audit the maintenance function). In the process of obtaining the literature for the relevant chapter, it became apparent that the importance of maintenance within hotels is an aspect that appears to be neglected not only internationally, but also within the borders of South Africa as a developing country. No relevant studies or literature from a South African perspective could be found regarding the maintenance function within hotels, even more so when viewed as critical to the success of the hotel. The third objective, to determine the critical success factors (CSFs), and the personal characteristics or traits, needed in effectively managing maintenance within hotels in South Africa, was accomplished using an empirical survey. The survey itself was composed of formulating questions from relevant literature and was web-based in nature. Hotels were e-mailed and maintenance managers invited to participate in the anonymous study. Once all the results were collected, four separate factor analyses were done to determine the different factors. Five personality trait factors, seven CSFs for general hotel management, eight maintenance management CSFs and three maintenance management expertise factors were identified. Statistically significant differences were also found when conducting T-tests, ANOVAs and Spearman’s Rank Order Correlations. These analyses showed that the personal characteristics of maintenance managers within hotels, combined with the hotel’s organisational structure and possibly the company profile, influences how important the different factors that were identified are about the effective maintenance management of hotels in South Africa. This should, therefore, be taken into account when looking at the maintenance aspects within hotels in South Africa, as these underlying factors will influence the effectiveness of the maintenance department and the hotel. The fourth and final objective, to draw conclusions and make recommendations regarding CSFs, personality traits and expertise as required for effective maintenance management in South African hotels, indicated that this study not only made a significant contribution to the literature for academics to understand better and appreciate the role of the maintenance function within hotels in South Africa but can also be used by the maintenance managers of hotels to potentially improve some of the processes relating to the management of their maintenance department. Future research on this topic should be conducted on a qualitative basis, as the challenges faced with the quantitative study were numerous. This will also create the opportunity for more involvement by the hotel maintenance manager community in shaping and expanding the research and available literature on the subject. It is important that the hotel maintenance function is also understood and studied as well as its sister department, housekeeping, on which various studies and literature are already readily available.
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